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How can I get my incontinent father to wear diapers?

17 answers | Last updated: Nov 01, 2014
A fellow caregiver asked...

My 80-year-old father, who has dementia, also has urinary incontinence, but he refuses to wear adult diapers. Any suggestions to help me convince him?


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Carol Jones is a family consultant for the Mountain Caregiver Resource Center in Siskiyou County, California.
94% helpful
Carol Jones answered...

Your father may find the idea of wearing diapers to be demeaning, which isn't surprising. However, there's such a great variety of products out there that you should be able See also:
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to find one that doesn't look like a diaper.

Look for men's briefs with built-in protection, for example. Essentially, these protective underpants look like men's briefs, but with an insertable pad that will absorb urine. This style may be more acceptable to your father.

If you go this route, you'll want to make sure the briefs fit well. Depending on how advanced your father's dementia is, you might want to ask him to try on some new clothes to see if they fit correctly, and include the briefs in the outfit.

If you're having a hard time convincing your father to wear any form of absorbent protection, you may have to hand over the job to another caregiver, perhaps a temporary one. With someone new, there's no personal history, which may be playing into your father's rejection of your requests.

That said, sometimes parents are just resistant. If this is the case, you may not be able to convince your father, and you'll have to look into other options, such as protecting the furniture where he sits and deodorizing the house.


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82% helpful
joyg answered...

At the begining I used his regular underwear with mens guards in the front. When they got wet all I had to do was whip them out and replace them. We he got bowel leakage, I used a womens thin pad in the back. My husband agreed to this system and it worked well for usl. Joy


100% helpful
ruthiep answered...

I don't refer to them as diapers and have instructed my caregivers to just call them underwear. My husband hates them too, but doesn't refuse to wear them; however, sometimes he will take them off without my knowledge, so I keep a close eye on that. My husband wore Gards for awhile in his regular underwear, but he developed a yeast infection, so we went with Depends. The guards tend to hold the moisture closer to the body than the Depends do. My sister who is a nurse thinks it's better to just go with the Depends as soon as it is necessary.


83% helpful
bethkent5 answered...

Yes, to everyone. Don't call them diapers!! I called them plastic pants. Pads inside regular underware works well too. And I love the idea of trying on new clothes. Gotta be creative and really steer clear of the diaper reference. Definitely do the pull up style rather than the tape together ones. Much more user friendly. Good luck.


100% helpful
jpreaves answered...

I agree with the Depends and NOT calling them diapers. I was persistent about her wearing them........especially when we went out. She seemed to agree with that. Speaking of relationship (Son to Father) I think I can see a negative attitude with his Father........but with a spouse I think reasoning goes a long way to where you want to be. I have far more trouble with toiletry problems than with the padded underwear. Good luck! JP


60% helpful
RFBrownPE answered...
  1. Stop calling the thing 'diapers'!

  2. See step 1.

  3. Do your homework: Some research on the web will tell you the personal physical and environmental effects of urine on the skin and in clothing, and on furniture. Research incontinence products on the web.

  4. When you have 'valid data' to share; have him sit with you to review what you have found - beginning with the negative effects of urine on himself and others. Unless he is saving it for tanning leather or drink it like some gurus in the Himalayas, he will not want to keep it around!

  5. When he is ready to do something about the problem, he may be ready to consider the options available. He must accept some responsibility for the issue, unless he is no longer able to, in which case remove everything but what you want him to wear. If he is competent to participate in choosing, encourage it. Let him pick the one to use first, which will be a key step in him sharing the responsibility for the issue.

  6. See step 1. and repeat


100% helpful
An anonymous caregiver answered...

RFBrownPe-I guess you missed the part where he said his father has dementia...research "data" and logical explination would have as much effect as explaining it all to a two year old! Had the same problem with my "demented" mom and simply told her she had a problem and it had been commented on by her friends. Told her the solution was Depends, removed all of her regular underwear, replaced them with Depends, end of story! Well, not quite, now I have to get her to dispose of them properly and not leave them laying around her apartment.


100% helpful
cekc45 answered...

I was in the same situation with my grandmother - instead of forcing them on her, I just filled half her underwear drawer with Depends, without saying anything. After a little while, I noticed she was using them when she got dressed so I started filling the drawer with more Depends and removing the regular underwear. Now the drawer is full of only Depends. Talking about it with her did not work as it was a very humiliating subject for her, so just putting the Depends were they were available to her did the trick.


93% helpful
frena answered...

It is completely a waste of time to try to persuade. People with dementia are disabled from being able to argue rationally, but they DO know how to resist!

instead of arguing, which only makes people feel attacked and afraid, try this. (Yes, and for goodness' sake everybody, STOP calling them diapers, which actually they aren't!) confiscate all other underwear completely, leaving not a single pair of regulars, and replace them with one of the many protective male-appropriate pull on pants. put these in the undies drawer and you may hear nothing more about it. we find this works with most older gentlemen, because they don't usually go commando.

then, if there is any talk, you may possibly explain a) most older people do this and no-one knows; b) he'll never have to worry about accidents again and c) they're comfortable.

or say nothing. but please STOP trying to bully or even persuade. it doesn't work (you noticed that, i'm sure)

frena gray-davidson, author of "Alzheimer's 911: Help, Hope and Healing for Caregivers," which is all about how to manage Alzheimer communication successfully.


100% helpful
CA-Claire answered...

The incontinence products have gotten better and better over the years. There are some now that are just like underwear, and are pretty thin. When my parents get to this stage, I will just replace their underwear with the incontinence product. Thank you for all the hints!


100% helpful
grannylove2 answered...

We just told Mom they were her underwear. We did not give her a choice because you don't ask a 2 year old what they want when it comes to something like this, you tell them what to do. By not making it a big issue, she adapted very well. Only when someone asks if she is wearing a diaper is there an issue now.


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67% helpful
A fellow caregiver answered...

One of my chief gripes is the use of the term "diapers". Why can't the medical community of nurses, doctors and caregivers understand what this means to our elderly, especially someone with dementia? The first image that comes to my mind is of a helpless baby. What do you think an elderly person, even one with dementia, feels and thinks when that word is used in relation to them? I always refer to the Depends, etc., that my mother uses as "pads". I know for a fact that just that one change in terminology has made a world of difference in how she feels about herself, her condition and the need for someone to clean her up and change her. She still needs to have some semblance of pride and dignity and this is just one small thing that I believe helps. I don't know if your father would be more amenable to the change, but maybe this will help. I don't see whether you are a male or female trying to help him as that is probably difficult for him, too, if you are his daughter. Good luck with everything.


100% helpful
CA-Claire answered...

I agree - I have never called them diapers. Diapers are for babies, period. Call them underwear, or by their brand name (Depends is one of the brands). Call them IPs (Incontinence Products). Anything but diapers.


100% helpful
frena answered...

actually, not only people with dementia don't want special undies. everybody DOESN'T want to wear "diapers" (except babies, i guess, and no-one asks them!).

what's wrong with "protective clothing" -- that sounds neutral, functional and grown-up to me and i've found it works for discussion purposes better than most names or terms.

problem with "Depends" as a term is that, as useful as they really REALLY are, they're a national joke now and kind of sunk by their success. (what we need is for Hanes or Fruit Loomies to get together with Depends.)

in honor of serving people's sense of dignity and reluctance too, let alone a certain finger-pointing attitude, why don't we drop the term incontinence wear too. or keep that for medical reference only. everything is in the name.


100% helpful
rosaflor answered...

Depends makes diaper-type pants and also men's briefs type pants. The latter have a kind of netting on the side that you can tear easily and remove the soiled briefs without having to bring them down all the way over the feet. If you can manage with the briefs they seem to be more acceptable to a wearer who is already upset, embarrassed, and scared.


An anonymous caregiver answered...

As her demential progressed, my Mom would wear incontinence underwear only when they were white like her regular underwear. The only trouble was that in our area women's depends that actually fit her only came in a kind of pink color. It became a constant argument to get her to wear the "dirty" (pink) underwear. There should be a white or colored option available.